HYDE — The Clearfield Lady Bisons enter tonight\’s District 9 Class AAA showdown with Punxsutawney beaming with confidence after winning the Clearfield Blast-Off Tournament for the first time under head coach Joey Castagnolo and turning in a good week of practice in preparation for its first big test of the year.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Arthur J. Weiss gymnasium at the Clearfield Area High School.
The Lady Bisons (2-0) know they will have to play a near-perfect game to hand the visiting Lady Chucks their first district loss in recent memory.
Punxsy (3-0 overall, 1-0 D9 league play) scored wins over Kiski Area and Indiana en route to winning the championship at the Indiana Tip-Off Tournament and scored a 62-24 win over DuBois on Tuesday. The Lady Chucks trailed at halftime in each of their first two games, but dominated DuBois in an easy win.
The Lady Chucks are the five-time defending District 9 Class AAA champions and are led by Lauren Martino, who scored 19 points against DuBois. Martino is a returning District 9 League all-star and is in her third year as a starter for Punxsy.
Castagnolo is confident in his squad, who downed Hanover, 63-52, to claim victory in the season-opening tournament last Saturday, and knows his team is going to have to take care of the basketball and play very well on defense to hand the Lady Chucks their first district loss in recent memory.
Point guard Nikki Collins will be a big factor in the game as the director of Clearfield\’s offense.
\”We\’re pretty confident,\” Castagnolo said. \”(The kids) know their style. They\’ve been through Punxsy before. We have had a good week of practice preparing for this game.\”
\”We are a senior-led team. Of course, they are too.
\”(Winning the tip-off tournament) gave us oodles of confidence. I think we will be alright. Nikki (Collins) got a lot of confidence in the point guard position. She is more confident, now.\”
The Lady Bisons are looking to dictate the play with their run-and-gun offense.
Clearfield hopes to limit turnovers on offense and feels solid play under the basket could be key. Meanwhile, Clearfield hopes to eliminate Punxsy\’s offense with a potent zone defense.
\”We have to limit turnovers,\” Castagnolo said. \”They have full-court pressure. We have to avoid the traps. They are always trapping.\”
While Martino is the leading threat on the Punxsy squad, the Lady Chucks return 10 of their top leading scorers from a year ago.
\”We need to move in our zone defense,\” Castagnolo said. \”We are going to have to play an almost perfect game. They haven\’t lost in six, or seven, years. They have a streak of all district games played. They haven\’t lost in our district in six years.
\”We have to have good shot selection. We can\’t be intimidated by them. We should be able to take (the ball) top the hoop. They overplay and they trap, but I think we can bust through it this year.\”
Castagnolo feels the Lady Bisons are up for the test.
\”It\’s a big game early, but it\’s a good measuring stick for us for the rest of the year.\”